Still, there's not much here. The action takes place in Somerville, Massachusetts, circa 1993. Matt and Ben have been trying to write a screen adaptation of The Catcher in the Rye without much success (Ben can't even spell the word lousy) when the script of Good Will Hunting, nicely typed and with their names on the title page, drops from the sky. That's it. They fight, go off on their own, fantasize about Salinger and Paltrow, fight again, and finally discover that maybe they could write such a script after all.
Matt & Ben lasts about 80 minutes and is very funny for about 40. It would have been a terrific skit on Saturday Night Live or Mad TV, no more sophomoric but also no less. Like so many of those skits, it is an iffy proposition for anything longer than five minutes and doesn't know how to wrap things up. But really iffy is its shelf life.
Ivonne Azurdia (left), Joe Kimble, and Michelle Goyette
are delightful in
Written by Mindy Kaling and Brenda
Withers. Directed by Paul Tei. With
Michelle Goyette, Ivonne Azurdia,
and Joe Kimble. Through August 6.
Mad Cat Theatre at the Light Box
Studio, 3000 Biscayne Blvd, Miami
The original two-actor production was cast against physical type, but Mad Cat has gone the opposite way while still playing it in drag: Brunette Azurdia plays brunet Ben, while blonde (but not really blonde) Goyette plays blond ("You're not blond!" in the script) Matt. They both have their moments, particularly Azurdia in the play's most successful slapstick as Matt goes for the gold in a high school talent show with a very sincere cover of Simon and Garfunkel, only to be upstaged and humiliated by Ben's lowbrow, audience-pleasing shtick (because of Ben, the two win first place and score excellent gift certificates to Applebee's). Kimble has a funny evil turn as Paltrow, and as Salinger is at least as surprising.
The unit set by Carolina Pagani is spot-on, a sloppy pigpen of an apartment complete with a framed poster of the bomb School Ties (an early Matt and Ben screen vehicle), a Fenway Park banner, and lots of pictures. Ken Clement's rough-and-tumble fight choreography looks just right. Karelle Levy's no-nonsense costumes are a large part of the reason this play scores high on the lesbo-meter: hot young actresses, without makeup, wearing flannels and baggy sweats. Tei keeps the cast moving, and moving fast. That the show bogs down way before the end is nobody's fault but the writers'.